In my soon to be published novel, Mrs. Odboddy Undercover Courier, Agnes is asked to carry a package for Colonel Farthingworth to President Roosevelt. She rides a train from California to Washington D.C, convinced the package contains secret war documents. Along the way, she encounters perceived Nazi spies determined to steal her package. Of course, nonsense and misadventure prevails where ever Mrs. Odboddy is concerned and Undercover Courier is no exception.
Thinking about a cross country train journey reminded me of the abandoned children riders of the Orphan Trains during the late 1800’s and early 1900s.
Because of mass immigration, poverty, disease, and human tragedy, thousands of orphaned and abandoned children were ‘on the streets’ in New York City, selling matches and rags or stealing to survive. Older boys ran in packs and gangs, committing petty crimes or worse. The few orphanages were overrun with infants and small children.
In 1849, a Presbyterian minister, Charles Loring Brace realized the children needed permanent homes, work and education. Because workers were needed in the Midwest, he determined that the orphans and good Christian farmers could be united.
Between 1854 and 1929, a quarter million abandoned babies and ‘street rats’ (as the older children were called) were boarded on trains headed for new lives in the country.
As good as this plan sounds, the consequences were debatable. The plan was to have town committees, pastors and doctors oversee the applicants to assure a good match between the children and waiting adoptive families. In some cases this worked well, in others, little oversight or follow through was given, to the detriment of the children.
The boys and girls would board a westbound train in groups of up to forty, accompanied by several adults. Circulars advertising ‘little laborers’ preceded them to the towns. The babies and pretty infants had the best chance of finding a good adoptive situation. Upon arrival to a town, the children were cleaned up and paraded into a local building, stood on a stage where they took turns giving their names, singing a little ditty or ‘saying a piece.’ The farmers looking for free labor then had an opportunity to prod the boys, examine their teeth and determine how suitable they were for the task needed, much like a slave auction.
Boys under twelve were ‘to be treated as one of their own children in matters of schooling, clothing and training.’ Boys from twelve to fifteen were to be ‘sent to school a part of the year,’ and given a stipend when they turned twenty-one. Older boys often ran away if faced with abuse.
In many cases, the children were far better off than if left in the big cities where their chance of survival was poor. Records show that Andrew Burke and John Brady, two Orphan Train boys, grew up to be the governors of North Dakota and Alaska, respectively.
In other cases, the children taken to the mid-west farms suffered emotional and physical abuse. Many children were used strictly as slave farm labor. Other children found fine families that loved them, and educated them.
Only the circumstances of the individual child could determine if the Orphan Train program was a success. Surely, left to the terrors of the inner city streets with no means of support could only have resulted in disaster or death for each child.
The Orphan Trains run until 1929 when a foster care program was instituted in each state.
Mrs. Odboddy–Hometown Patriot is available in e-book and print at Amazon: http://tinyurl.com/hdbvzsv
In my cozy mystery/adventure story,Odboddy–Hometown Patriot, is an elderly, eccentric woman determined to expose every villain and conspiracy threatening the home front during WWII. In addition to a charming story, we delve into life in the United States as citizens 'fought the war from the home front.' Agnes Odboddy was such a patriot.
American housewives willingly gave up their precious food, clothing, tires, and other goods to aid the war effort. Ration stamp booklets were issued and many items including sugar could only be purchased when accompanied with the appropriate stamp.
Just imagine how frustrating to find your coffee rationed to one pound every six weeks per adult. This was due to blockades affecting Brazilian ships attempting to bring coffee to the US (During part of 1942-43). The majority of the available coffee was sent to the troops.
Beef was in short supply and costly, as well as eggs, resulting in many resident chickens in suburban backyards. (Agnes obtains six chickens, but because she has no chicken coop available, she puts them in the bathroom. What could possibly go wrong?)
A limit to purchase only five tires during the entire war was put in place. By today’s standards, that sounds sufficient, but rough roads and poor tires were conducive to multiple flat tires. With a few exceptions for doctors and other public safety professionals, gasoline was rationed to four gallons per week, requiring folks to car pool, ride buses, use bicycles or walk. Speed limits of 35 mph were most common.
To appear patriotic and reduce reliance on the limited supply of vegetables and fruit available, citizens were almost required to plant a victory garden. Suburban front yards were converted to rows of cabbages, zucchinis, tomatoes and carrots. Any vegetable with a high yield requiring limited space became the main ingredient of Meatless Monday. Even Mrs. Roosevelt planted zucchini in the White House Rose Garden.
Ever fearful of another Japanese air attack, watch towers were erected every several miles along the California and Oregon coastline requiring volunteers to be the eyes and ears for the military. Radar was invented during the war but was in limited supply.
As Agnes’s fantasy mystery-adventure progresses, she experiences every phase of rationing, growing a victory garden and manning a watch tower. As a dedicated hometown patriot, she is determined to root out a ration book conspiracy, identify a perceived Nazi spy and prepare for a visit from Mrs. Roosevelt.
With the return of an old lover who wants to re-ignite their romance, things heat up. With chickens in the bathroom and a search for a million dollars in missing Hawaiian money, this hysterical romp through the WWII era is a fascinating novel like you’ve never read before.
A child learns to read and during early education, we read about the history of our country, read the text of a lesson, read the question, “If you have three apples and take one away, how many apples are left?” At some point, we begin to read for fun.
As adults, we read everything from Hotrod magazines about a 400 hp motor experimental car that runs on Black Flag bug spray or about the latest dirt in Hollywood. We buy it, borrow it or pore over it at the beauty shop.
According to personal taste, many enjoy thrillers, romance, westerns, how-to, or cook books. Now, folks are reading on the Internet, I-PAD, Kindle or who knows what?
I collect vintage books. I buy them for the book cover–perhaps with gold gilt lettering or an embossed cover. They look wonderful on my bookshelf. I have vintage books that range from the classics…to fascinating studies of Science and Health with Keys to the Scripture (1905) and Audel’s Answers on Refrigeration (1914)… (If you want to know anything about your 1914 refrigerator, let me know!)
Have I read all these books? No, but I have read many of them. Some are just too boring. Some are utterly fascinating from cover to cover. My favorite genre is mystery, but I am often pleasantly surprised to find a vintage book most enjoyable and informative.
The Yacht Club or The Young Boat Builder by Oliver Optic (1875) is a beautiful little blue book with gold gilt lettering and an embossed gold yacht on the cover. It would be considered a Young Adult book by today’s standard. I bought it from an antique store for $9.50. It is still available through Amazon (2008 printing) for around $15.00
The preface reads, “The hero is a young man of high aims and noble purposes. But he makes some grave mistakes. The most important lesson in morals to be derived from his experience is that it is unwise and dangerous for young people to conceal their actions from their parents and friends.” The book has several lithograph illustrations.
The book exemplifies the morals expected of young people in 1875. Wouldn’t it be refreshing if some of those high standards were still expected of the youth in 2016? Hollywood has proved a poor substitution for learning morals.
If you’re interested in learning more about how people lived and thought in earlier days, I recommend reading a vintage book.
Have you ever read a vintage book that left a positive impression?
Guest Post today from Grace Freeman. Finding a word prompt to write an essay from the following statement, "How would you DESCRIBE the days of the week if they were PEOPLE?" Grace shares with us her thoughts on the subject.
Sunday was gentle. She smiled with the softest dimples at the corners of her cheeks. Her lashes were light feathers atop deep brown eyes that always seemed to know exactly what you were thinking. She was ivory with a smattering of freckles along her nose, where the sunbeams had left butterfly kisses in the spring. Her hair was golden, flowing long down her back like a gurgling creek . When you saw her, you were content. Maybe even a little shy. Being in her presence made the world seem warmer, the days seem shorter, and the air a little easier to breathe. We took advantage of it. Sunday was a place of rest, and praise, but many found no help in her loving embrace. They feared the days to come, and would not trust her soothing words or easing prayers. They would turn their back on her. On days like this, she would be tired. The kind of tired that sleep cannot cure. For Sunday was only welcome when they took her for granted.
Monday was irritable. He was never satisfied, always searching for something, but nothing would ease his hunger. He was handsome, dangerously so, for his smile was misleading, with small pointed teeth at the corners of his lips. His eyes were so startlingly bright that many groaned when he came around, never wanting to face him. Dark auburn hair spiked messily away from his forehead, as if he were always in too much of a hurry to comb it the right way. He never ate enough, so every bone fought to be free of his skin. Few people welcomed him into their homes, or hearts. They slammed the door on his face, pulled the covers over their heads, or turned the other way to his cries. He was angry, and anger in Monday made his blood turn to ice. All he wanted was to be loved, greeted at the door like a long-lost friend. But he was only a burden, and that was all he would ever seem to be.
Tuesday was quiet. He never talked much and truly liked to keep to himself. Few things made him upset, and many things made him laugh. He was shorter than the others, with sweet topaz eyes and a tender smile. He liked to wear sweaters too big for his wrists, and ties with colorful stripes down the center. Blue was his favorite color, and he left it everywhere he could. On his nails and his glasses, in his spiral notebooks and flyaway hair. He took care to organize anything that needed to be. Pencil shavings were often a trace he left behind, too focused in his work to clean them up. Many people liked him, and others didn’t. They found him boring, tedious, or downright annoying. But some smiled when he walked their way, pausing to give him a timid wave. Tuesday was undoubtedly an introvert, but at least Wednesday was his friend.
Wednesday was a jokester; a bit of a maniac some would say. He was obnoxiously tall, with many studded piercings and mismatched eyes. Startling green on the right and muddy, hazel brown on the left. His right eyebrow, his left nostril, and both his ears in many places, all shone with a hint of metal. The others would tell him he needed to dress better, but everything hung from his lanky frame like spider silk on a branch. He loved black jeans, he loved holey shirts, and anything with spikes made him gleeful like a child in a candy store. He relished in pulling pranks and painting on concrete walls, and the sound of police sirens to him was as thrilling as a game of hide-and-seek. Those who were unlucky enough to hang around him usually took the fall for these gimmicks. Many wondered how he could hang out with geeky little Tuesday so much, for their polarized personalities seemed to set them apart in their eyes. Truly, he was trying to corrupt his prim and respectable friend, but nothing seemed to work. So Wednesday would run with us, kicking up dirt in his wake and leaving us in the dust of his dreams.
Thursday was ever observant. He was eldest, with sun touched skin and broader shoulders. His russet hair was trimmed short, and when he smiled, crow’s feet would appear at the corners of his golden-brown eyes. Just about everyone liked him. He was quite sociable, and was never too busy to help someone in need. He held the door for strangers, he always made his bed, and he would remind you sweetly that you’re capable of anything. He wore his heart on his sleeves. He left sunbeams in his wake. He could tell with just a glance that you were having a rough day. However, in our frustration, we shoved him off, told him to leave us alone. We locked ourselves in dark rooms as the sun shone behind the clouds. We had the audacity to wonder why it always rained the next day.
Friday was mute. He was small cupid bow lips that never made a sound. What he lacked in words he made up in bright oil paintings and watercolor masterpieces. His art was like smoke, so impossible to grasp yet breathtaking to watch. Paint could often be found under his fingernails and behind his ears, for he had a habit of brushing the untamed hair out of his face as he worked. Fourth of July was his favorite holiday, for fireworks took their turn to paint his face in brilliant works of light. His blond hair always had a certain way of falling over those lilac eyes that made anyone smile his way. He took us to concerts, and threw parties almost every week, and left ghostly kisses on the backs of our eyelids. Late nights he would spend running or skateboarding down dimly lit streets under the glow of fireflies and streetlamps. Arrests were made almost as often as love when Friday came around.
Saturday was turbulent. Her dark chocolate hair fell over her back like rolling waves on a stormy night. Her eyes were the color of the sea washing against a rocky shore. She corrected you when you were wrong. Holding her tongue was not in her nature. No filter came to her mouth. And yet, that is what we found most attractive. She enticed you with her words, even if she were talking about something as simple as how terrible the taste of coffee was on her lips. She would come back with scraped up knees or busted knuckles only to kiss you on the cheek before she was gone again. Saturday was whom we waited for at the door, eager to see her stride by. She was always on your mind, a phantom we would never truly understand.
These were the Weak Days. A family divided by periods of the night. But when the stars shone just right, the Weak would glow.
Did I forget to mention? Grace is my granddaughter. She is FIFTEEN years old, a sophomore in high school. She is already working on two novels. Look out, authors. Can a best seller novel be far in the distance? Comments?
Elaine’s latest novel, Mrs. Odboddy-Hometown Patriot a WWII of chicks and chicanery, suspicion and spies is a riotous romp with Agnes Odboddy, a self-appointed scourge of the underworld. Agnes fights WWII from the home front, collecting cans, volunteering at the Ration Stamp office and knitting argyles for the troops, while seeing conspiracies and Nazi spies under every cabbage bush. When Mrs. Roosevelt unexpectedly comes to town to attend a funeral, Agnes is called upon to prove she is, indeed, a hometown patriot.
Mrs. Odboddy – Interview –
My friends call me Agnes. I live with my Siamese cat, Ling-Ling, and my granddaughter, Katherine. She works at the Curls to Dye For Beauty Salon and does the hair and make-up at the Whistlemeyer Mortuary, here in Newbury. Clyde Hoffelmeister just passed away. He fell off the roof trying to save a cat. Don’t worry. The cat survived. Clyde didn’t.
I spend my time volunteering. Several times a month, I go to the Boyles Springs Military Base USO, just up the Northern California coast. I also roll bandages, knit socks for the military and collect paper on the paper drive. My favorite service is at the ocean watch tower watching for a Japanese invasion, and let me tell you, that becomes quite an adventure.
As I’m sure you’re aware, every citizen is a home front warrior and must be alert to Nazi-Jap spies. They’re everywhere! Speaking of Nazi spies, I told Chief Waddlemucker, the Chief of Police, that I’m convinced that Sofia Rashmuller from our knitting circle at the First Church of the Evening Star and Everlasting Light is a Nazi spy with bright red hair.
My red hair? Quite natural, I assure you. I may freshen it from time to time with a henna rinse but I would never dye it, because only fast women and European spies do that. I should know. I saw enough of them during WWI as an undercover agent for the US government. My stars, yes! We saw some action, but I never hurt anybody. Well, there was that one time… Of course, I can’t talk about the details. If I did, I’d have to kill you.
Did I mention that I also volunteer at the Ration Book Center, sending out the ration coupon books to the neighborhood? I’m sure I ran across a Black Market conspiracy this week, while addressing envelopes. Someone is stealing ration books from the mailboxes at empty houses. We’re planning a secret mission to catch the thief in the act. How exciting!
Now that we’re at war, we must all endure rationing. Imagine! Only one pound of coffee per adult every six weeks! And the price of eggs! Actually, I’ve solved that problem. I’m getting six chickens this afternoon. I’m not quite sure what we’ll do with them until I get a coop built. Guess we’ll just stick them in the bathroom . They’re just chickens, after all. What could possibly go wrong?
Mrs. Odboddy Hometown Patriot is available at Amazon in print and e-book ($3.99) http://tinyurl.com/hdbvzsv
In 1987, while visiting Austria, we were caught in a storm. Like our day in Austria we experienced the storm and the ringing church bells. The village and setting are real. There were cobbled streets and rain water flowing down the street and the fear and wonder were real. We were given this explanation for why they rang the bells...but the delightful interaction with the stranger is fantasy...or was it?
Have you ever had an experience that felt unearthly and ethereal?
Hofpgarten, Austria, 1987
The clanging church bells, crashing thunder and flash of lightning assailed my senses. Adrenaline surged through my chest like an electric current. Lightning lit the sky behind the church steeples across the street. Crashing thunder momentarily drowned out the clanging church bells.
Terror gripped my heart. Was I caught in a time warp of nature’s fury, transporting me to another place; magical, ethereal, and terrifying? How odd that I should feel such fear. Stay calm. It’s just a sudden summer storm. I stood transfixed in wonder as the elements crashed around me.
A torrent of water rushed down the cobbled stones, filling the gutters, threatening to flow onto my feet. Were the bells warning of some disaster? Have they declared war? Did someone assassinate the President? Does Austria even have a President?
I huddled beneath the narrow striped canopy of the clock shop. Cold spines of stinging rain drove against my face. Lightning flashed and I jumped at the next clap of thunder. The awning was pitifully inadequate and rain dripped from my hair onto my raincoat. Rain bounced off the pavement, forcing me closer to the wall.
And then, a man stopped beneath the awning where I shivered. “May I offer the shelter of my umbrella?” He tilted his umbrella, protecting me from the storm.
“Thank you, how kind.” His presence soothed my fears and my pattering heart slowed.
We stood side by side beneath the canopy, watching the ribbons of lightning zigzag across the afternoon sky.
“The storm came up so quickly, it caught me quite unawares.” I dabbed my face with a handkerchief and tilted my head toward the sound of the church bells.
“Sudden storms are not unexpected this time of year.”
“Why are they ringing the bells?” I tucked the hankie in my pocket. “Has something happened? Is there an emergency?” I gestured toward the deluge of water flowing down the cobbled stones, looking as though a river had overflowed its banks.
“They ring the bells to frighten the storm clouds toward another village.”
I struggled to suppress a smile, doubting the ability of the bells to drive away the clouds but pleasantly moved by his quaint belief in their magical power. “If that’s what you believe, I’m sorry to say, it’s not working. It’s been raining for half an hour.”
“Oh, it’s working fine.” His smile lit up his face. “But, the next village also rings their bells and the clouds are confused. They hear the other village bells, so they drift back here again. From village to village they drift. Soon they will find a quiet place where they can rest.”
We stood beneath the awning watching the rain and laughed, exchanging small bits of idle conversation. On the hillside above us, my pension looked down on the train winding through the valley and into the town. Cows dotted the nearby fields. The cow’s bells tinkled as they ambled across the meadows; the sound echoing from valley to hillside.
We stood so close to the stranger, I was warmed by the scent of him.
A whistle shrieked and he turned toward the train station. “I’m sorry, I must go. My train is coming. Perhaps you should seek better shelter?”
I nodded. “I’ll go into a shop as soon as the rain lets up a bit. Thank you again for sharing your umbrella.”
He caught up my hand and raised it to his lips. “It’s been a pleasure. I wish we had more time to…” His lips brushed my fingertips. “Good-bye.”
I looked deep into his eyes and in that moment, it felt as though I whirled through spasms of space and time. And in that instant, surrounded by light and the music of the bells, it was as though he and I had shared a lifetime together; infinite days and endless nights of love and hope. I heard the blare of 100 marching bands, saw the night sky explode in a cacophony of fireworks, felt the coolness of a 1000 springtime rains, the pink glow of 10,000 morning dawns and the wonder of a myriad of red and golden sunsets…
In those few seconds, it seemed we shared a lifetime. I shook my head, knowing it was a fantasy brought on by the magic of the bells and the storm.
He released my hand, waved a final farewell and strolled toward the train.
As he disappeared into the station, the blare of marching bands tinkled and became a warning bell, then silence. The music in my head became…a sparrow in a nearby tree.
The rain stopped. The sun cast sparkling rainbows through the dewdrops dripping from the shrubs. I touched the place where he had stood and his aura seemed to melt through my fingertips. “Wait! I don’t even know your name.” I ran toward the station, “Wait!” The whistle blew and the train clacked down the track. The magic spell was broken.
Years have passed. I’ve had a good life, all that one could hope for. Marriage, a satisfactory career and children. But, even now, when I hear church bells, I stop to listen.
Even now, the bells have the power to drive the storm clouds from my soul. I smile as I remember a summer storm in a faraway land. I close my eyes and relive the moments I shared an umbrella with a stranger. Were we caught up by a crack in time and space? In that instant, did we actually share a lifetime of love and laughter? Or was it only a dream that lasted for a second?
The bells ring on and I am reminded of that day when church bells echoed from one mountaintop to another, as the storm clouds scrambled from village to village in search of a silent peaceful place.
Finally in their frantic search, they drifted onto a quiet hillside where the only sound was the tinkling of cow’s bells, as they ambled through the meadows and disappeared into the mist.
THROUGH THE EYES OF AN EAGLE
Long before gold was discovered in the Sierra Mountains, the pristine forest, hills and valleys lay in green and golden repose, as yet untouched by the hand of man.
In this land of yesterday, meadows were carpeted with flowers, gently waving grass, dense forests and snow- capped hills. Crystal lakes shimmered in the sunlight, reflecting a brilliant blue unpolluted sky. In this virgin wilderness, animals and birds lived together in peace and harmony. Mother Nature taught each of them how to build a home in the trees, in the river or in a cave. Each knew when to find a mate, and how to raise their young.
On a particular day long ago, there was a certain valley surrounded by the forest at the base of a cliff, where a river splashed and tumbled over moss covered rocks. This valley was the home of Kamar the eagle, Pogo the beaver and Xerces the bear and her baby, Jali.
To the north of the river was a jagged, sheer faced cliff. On the top of the cliff stood an old dead tree, jutting another 50 feet into the sky. The old tree was blackened and broken, reminiscent of a long ago forest fire, years before the recollection of any of the forest creatures living in the valley. As the years passed, the hills turned green with new forest and now stood proud and tall with only a few remembrances of that terrible day when lightening struck and flames ravaged the hillside. Atop the old, blackened tree, in its highest branches, Kamar, the eagle and his mate built their nest.
Year after year, Kamar and his mate returned to the treetop and pulled out branches, kicked and scratched out leavings from last year’s nest, added new branches, enlarged and broadened its base until it spanned seven feet across, covering the top branches like a giant mushroom. Several months had passed since their eggs had hatched and three little fledglings filled the nest. Dark golden plumage had begun to sprout on their bodies and upper legs. In the months to come, as they grew to maturity, their golden heads, neck and tails would turn white, identifying them as Bald Eagles.
In the river below, Pogo, the beaver, built a dam, creating a rocking, flowing pool fifty-foot across causing the water to slow to a trickle. In this gentle pool, fish lazily slept, swam, and fed, providing a private supply to the beaver family. In the center of the dam, Pogo and his mate built a warm dry den for their four pups.
Mrs. Pogo sat on top of the dam, listening to the splash of water tumble over the nearby rocks flowing down the river toward the sea. The wind whispered through the leaves and forest birds chirped as they gathered sticks, flitting back and forth making their own nests. She heard the cac-cac-cac above and saw Kamar soaring overhead, his magnificent white head, neck and tail contrasting against the blue sky. He drifted down and seized a dead fish on the shore. With it gripped tightly in his talons, he soared upward. Turning and lifting with the air currents, he landed on top of his nest. His young fledglings opened their mouths hungrily to receive the pieces he tore from the fish. The smaller little female struggled valiantly with her larger brothers for her share.
Baby Jali, the grizzly bear, woke from a nap, stretched and yawned. A flying bug caught his attention and he stumbled after it. Stopping here and there to nibble a flower, he followed the bug across the meadow, until he was far from the river where his mother lay sleeping.
A ground squirrel ran toward a hole and forgetting the bug, he ran after it, imitating his mother’s actions.
The squirrel zigged and zagged toward the forest with Jali following close behind, until she zipped out of sight under a log. Jali found himself far from the river in a part of the forest he did not recognize. He bawled loudly for his mother. The only sound was the chirp of forest birds and small animals scratching nearby.
Jali heard the low moan of a wolf howling in the distance. Lost and hungry, he ran, frightened by the menacing sound. He stumbled over branches and undergrowth until he was deep in the damp forest and far from the safety of the meadow.
Kamar sat atop his mighty nest, his head cocked to the side, peering through bright yellow eyes at the river below. A fine pool had swelled behind the beaver’s dam where fish were trapped. He was pleased, for where there are fish, surely dead fish will be found such as was needed to feed his family!
Kamar’s attention was drawn toward Xerces, running through the meadow, but the baby was not scampering behind, begging to be fed. Xerces roared and smashed branches as she searched for the missing baby.
Kamar lifted off his nest, spread his wings and followed a down draft toward the river for a better look. He banked to the east, gave his six- foot wings a gentle flap and caught another air current that carried him in a soft arc. His excellent eyesight surveyed the entire meadow as he looked for Jali.
Kamar turned south and sailed across the lush forest, allowing the air currents to take him slightly up and down, back and forth. He scanned the trees below. Dropping down to get a better look, he saw the baby cub far beyond his mother’s call. Kamar banked again, his wing tips swishing against the highest branches.
Jali heard the swishing branches and looked up. He saw Kamar, soaring in a spiral above the trees. He had often seen Kamar circling above the meadow where he lived. Jali stumbled along the path, following the bird. Kamar circled slowly in a wide arc above the baby bear. Jali tumbled through the brush, keeping Kamar in sight, and at last was heading in the right direction toward the meadow. Within a short time, his mother’s bawling led him to her. She gave him a reprimanding smack with her great paw, licked his face, and lay down on the forest moss and fed him. When both were rested, she led him back to the meadow.
There came a day when a sudden summer storm rose up. The run-off from the mountains flowed into the river and the waters rushed toward Pogo’s dam, tearing and breaking loose the branches from the south wall.
Pogo and his family waddled into the forest to find trees to repair the damage. He showed them how to choose the right size trees, chew them at just the right height and angle to fall toward the river. Together, they pulled and tugged the trees back toward the broken dam. Pogo’s family gathered mud and placed it in the branches to secure the trees to the walls. The beavers worked throughout the day until the breach was nearly filled and the rushing river slowed to a trickle.
High on the top of the cliff, Kamar’s family huddled in their nest, their feathers dampened by the storm. When the storm had passed, the young fledglings stretched their wings in the air to dry. Each day they were becoming braver, stretching their wings, and letting the wind currents lift them up a few feet, only to fold their wings and drop back into the safety of the nest. The storm had also weakened Kamar’s nest, tearing away some of the branches that supported the increasing weight of the young birds.
As the littlest fledgling stood on the side of the nest, the weakened edge crumbled. Instinctively, she spread her wings. An air current lifted her slightly, breaking her fall, as she plummeted downward toward the river. She drifted, rather than fell, into the water, 20 feet from the beaver’s dam. The fledgling splashed frantically, but her wet feathers kept her from lifting herself out of the water. The river’s current dragged her toward the rocks.
Pogo entered the water with the final log gripped in his teeth, needed to repair the dam. His children followed along side guiding the log into place. As they positioned the end of the log into the breach, the far end swung around and smacked into the drowning fledgling. She flopped her drenched body onto the log. Pogo swung the log around to fit it into the dam, rapping the end where the little bird slumped, sharply against the shore. The nearly drowned fledgling fell from the log into the sand, where she lay huddled, wet and shaking in the sun. She extended her wings to dry, closed her eyes and slept.
The little bird huddled on the shore, drying and regaining her strength while her parents circled helplessly above, calling and swooping over her crumpled body. When the sun dried her feathers, the little bird extended her wings and pushed off the shore. She rode the air currents, circling above the river while her parents called encouragement, until she reached the safety of her nest, high at the top of the sheer cliff in the old blackened treetop.
Following their sister’s example, for the first time, Kamar’s sons let the current take them from the edge of their nest. They circled, each time a little farther, until the sky was filled with eagles. They lifted and soared and let the wind take them, returning again and again back to their home base. Eventually they would leave the safety of the ancient tree and learn to find food and care for themselves. But on this day, with the air filled with cac-cac-cacs, they soared and called, high above the river, proud of their new skill. They flew through the sky, where as far as the eagle’s eye could see, the land was covered with trees and majestic mountains and meadows filled with flowers.
Pogo and his family, not knowing the part they had played in the little eagle’s rescue, slept soundly in their newly repaired den beneath the river that flowed endlessly toward a distant sea.
The summer days grew longer and the leaves on the trees turned to shades of red, yellow and orange. The shrubs lost their leaves and the autumn rain turned the meadow grasses once again from brown to green.
One crisp fall day, the youngest beaver pup ventured into the cool and shadowy forest near the spot where they had taken trees to mend the dam last spring. With the wind in his face, he did not see or hear the male grizzly bear that came out of the forest. The male had caught Xerces’ scent, and on the chance that she might be in season, was coming to investigate.
Coming from behind a clump of bushes, the grizzly and the beaver unexpectedly stood within feet of each other. The bear roared and reared on his hind feet. The little beaver was paralyzed with fear, unable to move. The male grizzly bear raised his paw to strike a blow that would send the beaver to his death.
Xerces awoke at the sound of the male’s roar. She raced toward the giant male who dared invade her territory where her baby lay sleeping. Xerces burst through the bushes, roaring hideously, as only a mother grizzly bear can.
The grizzly turned to face the enraged mother. Though the male easily outweighed Xerces, he knew that she would fight to the death to protect her cub. The lady was obviously not interested in romance. He ran back into the brush with Xerces close behind him. The little beaver raced back to the river as fast as his little body could waddle.
Kamar rose from his treetop, catching an updraft, lifted and circled the valley. His fledglings were grown and all but the little female had flown away, as fledglings do. Some days, Kamar would see them high above the valley, their cac-cac’s ringing through the morning sky. The little female ranged far and wide during the day, hunting, catching the currents, drifting and swooping over the forest, returning only to her mother’s nest at night. Soon, she would find a mate and build her own nest in a high crevice or treetop.
From high over the treetops, he looked down upon his world. His abandoned nest, atop the sheer rock face, above the river winding through the valley. Xerces, sleeping in the meadow with her cub. Beavers paddling happily across the river, diving into the sparkling water. Kamar’s mate, preening her feathers, in a nearby tree.
Kamar circled and then flew straight up into the sun until from the ground, he looked like a speck in the sky. Beneath him, the mountains, the forest, the rivers and the valleys far, far below were touched with shades of sparkling red, yellow and gold, crisscrossed by brilliant blue rivers, white snowcapped mountains and vivid shades of green forests, as though it were a mighty landscape, painted by the hand of God.
In my latest humorous mystery/adventure, Mrs. Odboddy Home Town Patriot, Agnes grows and tends vegetables and fruit in her back yard victory garden. Here are some facts about victory gardens you may not know.
During the course of WWII, and due to labor and transportation shortages, trains and trucks were used to move soldiers and equipment, thus limiting the ability to transport fruit and vegetables products to cities and towns across the United States. Therefore, the U.S. Department of Agriculture encouraged planting victory gardens in every back yard, vacant lot or unused plot of land.
One U.S. propaganda poster read, Our Food is Fighting. Such war time posters sent the message to local citizens that produce from their own gardens would help lower the price of vegetables needed by the U.S War Department to feed the troops. Such a savings could then be used elsewhere to provide weapons and clothing to the military: Home victory gardens also increased the supply of produce that was otherwise rationed and limited to homemakers across the county. Around one third of the vegetables produced by the United States during the war years came from victory gardens.
By May 1943, there were 20 million victory gardens everywhere from rooftops and empty lots to backyards and schoolyards or in any other usable plot of dirt in the United States. It became a sign of patriotism to convert your front lawn into a vegetable garden.
Eleanor Roosevelt planted a victory garden on the White House grounds as an example to the vast number of dedicated followers of her newspaper articles and radio broadcasts. This was viewed with concern by the Department of Agriculture. Not everyone was an experienced gardener, so the government issued educational pamphlets, as did seed and agricultural companies, including growing techniques and recipes. As a result, 9,000,000–10,000,000 tons of fruits and vegetables were successfully harvested in homes and community plots in 1944. “Grow your own, can your own", was a slogan that referred to families growing and canning their own victory garden food, so the harvest could last all year.
Even in New York City, lawns were converted to victory gardens, as were portions of San Francisco Golden Gate Park. Schools and community centers still plant gardens to teach children about harvesting, good nutrition and the wonder of watching nature’s bounty when properly cared for.
To read about Agnes Odboddy’s victory garden and her recipe for Oxtail Stew and War Time cake, Mrs. Odboddy Home Town Patriot is available at Amazon for just $3.99, or about the same price as a nice package of bran muffins from today’s supermarket. Bran muffins or hours of reading enjoyment. You make the call.